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Highland Council leader gives wards shake-up the thumbs down

By Scott Maclennan

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Boundary Commission proposals to redraw the ward maps of Highland Council.
Boundary Commission proposals to redraw the ward maps of Highland Council.

PROPOSALS to redraw the ward map of Highland Council have been given the thumbs down by the local authority leader.

Plans show changes to almost every ward and are part of a review conducted every eight to 12 years by the Boundary Commission.

If agreed, it will lead to major changes. Inverness could lose two wards but gain two councillors. Other changes would result in the far north losing three councillors and Sutherland would be made into one giant ward.

But council leader Margaret Davidson thought plans ignored pleas to be mindful of communities, with her own Aird and Loch Ness ward split in two down the middle of the loch.

“I am very unhappy about a lot of what they are proposing,” she said. “We will need a very strong response.

“We had a meeting with the Boundary Commission late last year and we said to them to please be very mindful of communities, community loyalties, and geography and please don’t get completely dazzled by the numbers game. I am very sorry but that is what has happened again, everyone is affected by this.

“They stirred Inverness with a big spoon. Loch Ness is sliced down the middle and it weakens the level of involvement. For me, Loch Ness has always been one place – all the way round.”

Inverness Ness-side councillor Ron MacWilliam believes local government problems go deeper.

“There will be a lot of hot air about the Boundary Commission review, but in reality it won’t change things that much – certainly not for the better,” he said.

“The ward I represent will become yet more difficult to manage with Ness-side stretching out along the south bank of Loch Ness. It will still, however, be one of the better ones. Most Highland wards are comically large.

“Highland Council has been structurally flawed from the outset. We need major reform of local government to reflect modern needs and local democratic accountability.

“This regional governance structure is bureaucratic, wasteful and distant from both communities and citizens. Inverness needs its own council again and the rural Highland communities need a better localised system to promote their very individual needs.

“I hope the changes spark a fresh debate about local government because our politicians need to get their heads around the fact that the status quo doesn’t work well for anyone.”

Results of the consultation are due to be presented to Scottish ministers by May 2021 for a decision before the 2022 council elections.

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